Four’s a Crowd [El cuarto pasajero] — HSBC Spanish Film Festival 2023

Review by John P. Harvey.

Taking a car to Madrid, Julián (Alberto San Juan) picks up Lorena (Blanca Suárez) as a share ride and is immediately smitten.  Sharing the trip regularly after this along with a variety of others, Julián and Lorena get to know each other, and Julián finally is on the point of declaring his love for her when two strangers, Rodrigo (Ernesto Alterio) and Sergio (Rubén Cortada), sharing the ride make it impossible.  Not only that: Sergio was supposed to be a fat man; instead, he is a ladykiller.

With both strangers making passes at the girl whom Julián has set his cap at, Julián is becoming frustrated and concerned.  But as Rodrigo repeatedly derails the journey and Sergio appears to be Lorena’s lifeline, Julián reaches the limit of his sanity, and risks loss of girl, liberty, and life.

The bare facts make the movie sound unhappy and dark, and in fact we can empathise deeply with Julián’s frustration over the way his entire life is rapidly going to hell.  As understandable anxieties give rise to moments of spontaneous courage and momentary poor judgements, everything that could possibly go wrong given a little help gets that help in spades from Rodrigo, exacerbating Julián’s worst qualities and driving Lorena away from him.  Yet the impending wholesale trainwreck of a good man’s life could hardly be portrayed with greater hilarity.  And in fact the movie is not dark; it may be the greatest comedy Spain has produced in years, and it frequently had the audience laughing so uncontrollably that some could barely contain themselves.

This is a road trip with a difference: filled with unexpected twists, turns, sudden stops, and reversals of fortune, it’s a romp with a destination that could be anywhere.  Jump aboard while the doors are open.

Screening at Palace cinemas.

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